Women, mothers, I ask you: what do you see when you look in the mirror? When you strip off your clothing, when you let your eyes fall upon your naked figure, what thoughts fill your mind? Do you scrutinize every dimple, every roll and every stripe with critical eyes, or do you marvel over each curve, each line, and each glowing inch?
It took me a long time and a lot of careful intention to get to the place I am today—to the place where I sit in wondrous awe of my body, and to lie in comfort with the driving passions that fill my mind. Even though I grew up under the wing of a strong and confident mother, and was taught by example to pay no mind to what others thought, societal norms and the mainstream media did not escape me; and as such, I fell into that deep chasm of self-criticism, -disdain and oftentimes pure loathing— particularly during my teenage years. We’ve all been there – we’ve all found ourselves at fourteen years old, wondering why our breasts are so small, our thighs so thick or our hair too this or too that—we think that if only we were six inches taller, that our weight would be more evenly distributed; or that if only we were six inches shorter, we’d not have to feel like we’re being gawked at everywhere we go. We conjure up just enough reasons as to why we’re not quite up to snuff, and soon we’ve descended into a mindset that envelops us in some true warped knowing that we come up short or that we’re not worthy of reverence.
Then enter motherhood: that season that throws at us a deluge of hormones, confusion abounding, a body perhaps sliced, ripped or torn to shreds, and a new little earthling to care for first and foremost. We see postpartum bodies being Photo shopped all over the media, judged left and right, and we can’t help but hold ourselves to the same unrealistic standards: why don’t our pre-pregnancy jeans fit yet? Will our breasts be this engorged forevermore? And in the years that follow, what we wouldn’t give to have those giant, leaky boobs back… because now they’re deflated and pulled down by gravity; and surely nobody finds these appealing, we think to ourselves. Not really, anyway.
I look myself up and down in the mirror and I like what I see—I need to make that abundantly clear. BUT: there’s a lot of fine print that accompanies that sentiment. I am not without doubt, hesitation or reservation. I wrestle with compartmentalizing the flaws in my body: sagging breasts are excused for having provided my daughter with life and comfort for three years. My soft stomach, though, does not get a pass. A pregnancy does not excuse me from looking exactly the way I do now, I think; that must be blamed on my occasionally poor eating habits, my regular consumption of alcohol and my lack of regular exercise. I allow only so much pregnancy-related fat before I put my foot down and blame the rest of it on myself. There’s no excuse for looking exactly like this, I tell myself. I am still beautiful, but I’m not treating my body the way I should. And that’s the truth.
The deluge of self-deprecating thoughts that fill my mind usually come around the time that I have my period, because I’m bloated and short-tempered; forgiveness is in high demand and in low supply.
I find myself swooped up by the hurricane of responsibilities and of day-to-day busyness; by the chaos of chasing after a three-year-old, and by being a partner to my husband. I feel regularly like I’m failing at both, even though the first thing I sacrifice in order to maintain order is myself—my desires, my priorities, my hopes and my joys. These things fall by the wayside and there I stand in the middle of a storm with nothing to show for it. And all the while, my hair just keeps getting longer, and my stomach softer.
These feelings wax and wane over the course of any given month, and before too long I find myself back to marveling over that naked body of mine in the mirror. I demand of myself to look at that work of art; to consider all that it has done—both for myself, and for my healthy and thriving child. This body of mine, I decide, is a temple, and my mind a raging fire.
Women, mothers, I ask you: how intentional are you in fostering a love for all that which propels you forward? To love others, we must first love ourselves; and that love is as physical as it is emotional. We need to nurture our desires, raise up our passions and hold tight our deepest desires. We must love our every curve, and eradicate the notion that we are to look a certain way in the days, weeks and years after having given birth. We must embrace all that we are, all that we have accomplished and all that we stand for.
Women, mothers, I implore you: give yourself every ounce of love that you pour into those around you. Allow it to multiply, and watch it flow freely from you once you’ve permitted it to pump fervently through your veins. You are worthy, you are powerful and you are a source of unremitting glory. You are everything, and you are so much more.